The textile and collage works of this Filipino artist fight against oppression in the world

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Aware of the contexts in which his works are produced, artist and social activist cyan dayrita advocates for the inclusion of the narratives of underrepresented populations, playing their role as an element of a larger collective resistance. I sit down with him to discuss how he champions the rights of disenfranchised and marginalized populations.

You were born in Manila in 1989. Tell me about your parents, your childhood, if any of your relatives were artists, how and when you became interested in art, and when you knew you wanted to be an artist.

A middle-class Catholic family in the city. Relatively comfortable in a relatively uncomfortable society where privilege is currency. I don’t remember exactly how I came to be an artist. There were several factors, one of which was recognizing that art, or cultural work in a broader sense, was an opportunity to engage in direct action to learn and address the contradictions of our current social order, which of course have not yet I had fully understood. . I remember watching some videos of a massacre of protesting farmers in 2004. I was totally gutted by the thought that such an injustice was taking place right outside my comfortable urban bubble.

Why have you chosen to focus on the notions of power and identity represented and reproduced in monuments, museums and maps?

Growing up, I was always fascinated by how these objects and places had so much power in dictating how civilization was perceived. I was equally fascinated and horrified by how the people who did these things could force their perspective on everyone else. As a response to the immediate conditions that I was gradually recognizing, I wanted to challenge the perspectives that somehow monopolized the framing of history and heritage. Activism taught me that by learning and foregrounding the narratives of the marginalized and deliberately silenced, social justice can be achieved. By subverting the language of these institutions, I felt I was filling in the gaps and democratizing the functions of storytelling.

How has the colonial history of the Philippines influenced your work?

The colonial histories of the Philippines and other nations are natural starting points for discussing current struggles. Colonialism never ended; it only evolved into contemporary iterations of oppression and exploitation on various levels.

Tell me about the time you spent with indigenous peoples, peasants, the urban poor, and refugees, and your map-drawing workshops. What did you learn from these communities? Why are you interested in defending the marginalized and dispossessed, particularly populations that have been dispossessed of their ancestral lands?

The history of the Philippines is a history of struggle between the ruling classes and the broad masses who are marginalized and systematically oppressed. In this context, one has to take sides. By remaining neutral, you naturally side with the oppressive system. Farm workers, workers, the urban poor, and ethnolinguistic minorities bear the brunt of centuries of abuse. We need to try to understand the structures in which culture, economics, and politics function. My practice is activated by solidarity in the struggles of oppressed populations.

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